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Inaugural Girls Under 16 tees off in York

● Griffiths Inspired at Fulford by McWilliam’s Curtis Cup selection

● Players from 11 different countries tee up for inaugural Under-16 event

History made as 90 girls compete in new event on domestic calendar

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Aboyne’s Carmen Griffiths is drawing inspiration from her fellow club member Shannon McWilliam as she lines up in the inaugural Girls Under 16 Open Championship.

On the eve of the new event at Fulford Golf Club in York, McWilliam fulfilled a dream by being named in the Great Britain and Ireland side for June’s Curtis Cup match.

As the 18-year-old prepares for the biennial match at Quaker Ridge in New York, a number of girls in the 90-player field in Yorkshire will hope to follow in her spike marks one day.

That is especially true for Griffiths, who believes McWilliam’s selection has given Aboyne and her own game a real boost.

Thrill for Aboyne GC

The 14-year-old said: “I went to school with Shannon and it’s great for the entire club to see someone like her going to the Curtis Cup. I feel like I’m at the same level as when she was 14 so I’m hoping to follow along her lines.”

“I’m really excited for this event,” added the three-handicapper, the reigning ladies and girls’ champion at Aboyne. “This is my first British event so hopefully I can play well.”

The new 54-hole stroke play tournament has been introduced as part of The R&A’s drive to boost the girls’ game in Great Britain and Ireland and beyond, as well as provide a pathway to the elite amateur level for leading young players.

Carmen Griffiths from Aboyne during her practice round at Fulford Golf Club
Carmen Griffiths from Aboyne during her practice round at Fulford Golf Club

‘New opportunity for our age group’

Players from 11 different countries are represented, including 54 from the host nation. The Under-16 Italian Girls’ champion, Carolina Melgrati, also competes.

Hailing from Monza near Milan, the 15-year-old admits the new event encouraged Italy to send three players to England’s north-east.

“I was really happy when a friend of my dad said there was this new Under 16 event, so my dad was then keen for me to play in it,” said Melgrati. It’s a new opportunity for my age group. This is my first time playing in England. The wind is really strong and the weather is different to Italy, but it will be a good challenge.”

Somerset’s Davina Xanh is another looking forward to the three days of competition. The five-handicapper, aged 14, is relishing the chance to pit her wits against a talented field.

Prestigious venue

“I’m excited to play this week,” said Xanh, from the Mendip Spring club. “I’ve never played in an event like this before, playing against better players. It’s a new age group opportunity and when I heard about it I knew it was one I wanted to play in.”

Fulford, hosting an event organised by The R&A for the first time in its history, enjoys a prestigious reputation as a championship venue, having staged the first ever Women’s British Open in 1976 as well as European Tour events.

Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Sam Torrance and Sandy Lyle are all past winners over the parkland test. Fulford will also host the Girls Under 16 Championship in 2019 and 2020.